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Four days after Derek Amato hit his head on the bottom of a swimming pool, he sat down at a piano and found that he could play it beautifully.
Amato discovered his talent in October 2006 when he was 40 years old. He dove into a pool one day and hit his head, and when he came out of the water, he couldn’t hear anything and felt as though his ears were bleeding.
Amato had a severe concussion that caused some hearing and memory loss. He recovered fairly quickly, and four days later he sat down at a piano for no reason that he could think of and started playing.
“As I shut my eyes, I found these black and white structures moving from left to right, which in fact would represent in my mind a fluid and continuous stream of musical notation,” Amato explained in an article on the Wisconsin Medical Society’s website.
From then on Amato was able to play the piano effortlessly, as though he’d been playing it his whole life. He played music from memory and composed his own music, stunning his family, his friends, and himself.
Amato’s rare talent was diagnosed as savant syndrome, and his ability to see shapes and colors when hearing music is known as synesthesia.
“We commonly refer to Derek as ‘Rainman Beethoven,'” his friend Gerry Gomez stated in the article.
“To date we have not found another medically documented case where immediate or sudden musical savant syndrome had been acquired from a brain injury,” Gomez added.
Amato wrote in the article that he told his mother, “I guess God decided to give me my birthday present a bit early this year.”
In 2007, the Association of Independent Artists made Amato the Independent Artist of the Year. He composes music, travels, and performs, supporting charity events for traumatic brain injuries.